Saturday, February 5, 2022

Smart Doll by Danny Choo

Even during the time when I wasn't actively reviewing dolls and tracking trends, I was aware of Smart Doll.  I do a lot of wig shopping for the My Twinn Project, and I noticed over the last two years that several of my favorite wig vendors, who had previously been offering mostly American Girl wigs and accessories, were switching their focus to Smart Doll.  That got my attention because few things in the doll world are more popular than American Girl.  After a while, it became impossible to shop for a wig without seeing a dozen gorgeous photos of Smart Dolls in the process.  So, when I decided to start blogging again, one of the very first things I did was visit Danny Choo's site to learn more about this enticing brand.

Danny Choo (son of fashion designer Jimmy Choo) grew up in England with a fascination for Japanese popular culture.  This fascination led to the creation of a television show, Culture Japan, and the design of an anime mascot for that show.  The mascot's name is Mirai Suenaga, and she's described as a second year high school student with an interest in journalism.  Mirai loves the color orange and is often shown in orange-themed outfits.  The Mirai character went on to become quite popular, getting her own anime series (Mirai Millenium), and even being recognized as the official symbol for Japanese and Malaysian tourism.  In 2012, Mr. Choo began the process of turning Mirai into a 60cm fashion doll: the first Smart Doll.  Mr. Choo currently lives in Japan, where all Smart Dolls are made.

I probably should have chosen the Mirai character for this review, since she's the original Smart Doll, but those of you who know me won't be surprised that it's the smiling redhead with freckles who I couldn't resist.  She's a newer doll from the Story Tellers collection and her name is Monday:

Smart Doll Monday (Tea skin tone, Cherry wig, replacement eyes), ¥52,000 or ~$453.

Danny Choo writes long, informative, and humorous blog posts, so if you're curious to learn more about the brand, I highly recommend exploring the Smart Doll website.  I especially liked reading about how the company got started and how Smart Dolls are made.  It's rare to get such a detailed look at the manufacturing process.  I also admire Mr. Choo's fierce advocacy for his employees.  The "customer is god" philosophy of retail can reach toxic levels--especially in Japan--and entitlement is a thing that bothers me enormously in today's world.

When I first went to the Smart Doll online store, several of the dolls were out of stock and I worried that it would be hard to get the character I wanted.  I searched around on eBay, too, but the re-sale prices were very high.  Happily, a few weeks later, all of the dolls were back in stock at the Smart Doll store, so I had my pick.  I debated back and forth between Monday and a doll called Strength (another redhead), but in the end, Monday's happy face won me over.  I also like Monday's story.  Her message is all about switching up the narrative on the much-hated first day of the week.  I enjoy Mondays (they're filled with so much potential!) so this doll resonated with me.

I had some back-and forth email with Mr. Choo himself before my doll was shipped, and I found this interesting.  He wrote to ask me to double-check my address (good call) and also to make sure I would be okay with long shipping times and little imperfections in the doll.  He was even interested in why I chose Monday.

After the email exchange, I was prepared to wait several weeks or even months for Monday to arrive (I mean, Priority Mail in the United States was taking over a week back then), but the package arrived within days.  Lina (my Barbie Signature Looks helper) and I were both really surprised by how small the box was!

You told me this was a big doll, Emily!
How was a nearly 24-inch doll squished into that little box?  I was worried that Monday would be in ten different pieces that I'd have to assemble myself.

The shipping box had no extra packaging material inside, just a large canvas tote that made me smile:


I have to pause here to address something.  Notice how it says "SMARTDOLL" on the bag as all one word.  I've actually seen the brand written this way quite a lot--especially on the packaging.  But on the website, the dolls are described as "Smart Dolls," with two words.  I waffled back and forth about how to write the name in this review, and decided to copy what's written on the website, not on the packaging.

Inside the bag, there was a cardboard box...and the doll herself!


I expected the doll to be inside the cardboard box, but she was wrapped in bubble wrap, tucked up next to the box.  Her face was even pointed outwards.  For anyone who has ever shipped a doll, you'll understand my surprise at this packaging method (always protect the face!).  

So many things are overpackaged these days, it was refreshing to see that this is all that's required to keep a Smart Doll safe for international travel.  It's also a testament to how durable the dolls are.

And Monday was all in one piece--no damage, and no assembly required.


Monday slipped easily out of the bubble wrap bag, and that was basically all of the de-boxing I had to do!


I had absolutely no trouble getting Monday to stand on her own.  She has excellent balance and solid, stable knee and ankle joints.  Here she is in all of her glory:


In the BJD world, Monday would be described as SD sized, or 1:3 scale.  The SD stands for Super Dollfie and comes from the fact that Volks' Super Dollfie dolls are this size.  It's similar to how we call all tissues Kleenex and all sticky bandages Band-Aids; the brand name has come to have a broader meaning.

Whether or not Monday is technically considered a BJD is a more complicated question.  The term BJD (Ball Jointed Doll) typically refers to resin dolls from Asia that are strung with elastic and contain multiple ball-shaped joints.  Monday has multiple ball-shaped joints, but she's not strung with elastic (thank goodness) and she's made out of vinyl.  I think of her as a BJD because that's what she looks like to me.

Here she is from the back:


She has a really beautiful body shape with nice proportions.

She comes wearing a deep plum underwear set with a racerback, sporty style.  The black elastic trim on the bra and panties has white lettering that says "with a SmartDoll, the future is in your hands."


One of my first thoughts was that Monday is huge!  She's about the same height as a My Twinn doll, so the size should feel quite ordinary to me...

Smart Doll with a My Twinn.
...but for a fashion doll, this size is extraordinary!

Okay, okay.  She's tall.  Big deal.
Monday can carry Lina around effortlessly:


Monday wanted to help me investigate what was inside the cardboard box.  She was hoping for some hair:


Sure enough, the first thing Monday pulled out of the box was her Mermaid Cherry wig:


It's a gorgeous red color!

There was other stuff inside the box, too:


Like this shopping bag from the Mirai store in Tokyo!  That's really cool:


I knew that these dolls were supposed to come with a stand, so I was waiting for Monday to unpack a stand:


She pulled this bag out, but the thing inside didn't look like any doll stand I've ever seen before:


It looks like a doll stand that's missing its base:


Monday and I both peeked into the box to see if there was a stand base inside, but all we found was a postcard-sized photo:


It's a picture of the Mirai Smart Doll.  She's very pretty!


Her outfit is incredible, too (although it isn't orange).  I love the aesthetic of the Smart Doll clothing, and the detail is remarkable.

Here are all of Monday's accessories:


I decided to investigate the stand first, because I was still convinced that I was missing a part:


This little device is about the size of a ball-point pen and (spoilers) it works without a base.

There's a hole in Monday's lower back:


And the plastic, skin-colored part of the stand inserts into that hole.  The metal section of the stand is telescoping, and has a rubber stopper at the end.  This is enough to support Monday when she stands!


She doesn't really need support when she stands, though.  She's one of the most stable and well-balanced dolls I've ever worked with, especially considering her large size.

Still, I suppose the stand will come in handy if I want to attempt some gravity-defying poses like this one:


Let's take a closer look at Monday's face:


All of Monday's features are hand-painted.  I actually got to watch somebody doing this delicate work in the "How Smart Doll is Made" video on Danny Choo's website.

There are two different types of Smart Doll face.  One is the anime-style face, which is what Mirai has. That was the only style of Smart Doll face until 2019.   The other style is called a semi-real face, and that's what Monday has.

I slightly prefer the semi-real faces, but both are stylized, and both are attractive.


The semi-real face options are one thing that distinguishes Smart Doll from other vinyl BJDs.

Monday has large, inset blue eyes surrounded by painted anime-style lashes and eye creases.  The eyebrows are simple curved lines with no hair detail:


Monday has tiny freckles on both of her cheeks and across the bridge of her nose.  These areas are also blushed with red.  The shadow lines that detail the edges of Monday's smile are delicate and bring a lot of expression to her face.

I don't see any imperfections in Monday's face paint.  She looks beautiful to me.  The one thing I might change is to reduce the blushing on the bridge of her nose.  Not all of the Smart Doll characters have this area of color.  I think it might be linked to the presence of freckles; the freckles would look funny if some of them had blushing behind them and others did not.

Monday looks sweet in half-profile.  She has a delicate, upturned nose, a slight underbite, and her smile lines are still visible:


The shape of her eye sockets is very round, with practically no tapering at the edges.


Here she is in full profile:


Monday's ear shape is unusual.  I don't think I've seen an ear simplified this way before.  Here's a better look:


Smart Doll makes little elf ears that fit right over these base ears.  They look amazing, but cost $40.  I wish I'd had the extra cash to include those in my purchase!

The back of Monday's head has a few factory marks, including the name of Danny Choo's company (Mirai) at the top of the neck:


Let's go back and look at Monday's full body again for a second:


She has the Tea skin tone, which is the middle skin tone from Smart Doll.  The other skin tones that are available right now are called Cinnamon, which is very light, and Cocoa, which is dark.

Most of Monday's body is made out of hard vinyl.  The material compresses a bit when I push on it, but not a lot.  In contrast, her upper torso, hands, and pate are made out of softer vinyl that is more pliable.

She has approximately seventeen points of articulation, but you'll see in a bit why that's a hard number to pinpoint.  I'll run through the joints one by one.

First, Monday's head is articulated with her neck in such a way that she can turn from side to side:


She can spin her head all of the way around on this joint, but she can not look up or down.


Monday's neck is also bendable, though, and this is what allows her to look up and down.


Her neck bends forwards more than it bends backwards.


Here's a GIF so you can see the joint in motion:


There's some extraneous movement in the torso there, but I tried to keep everything but the neck as still as possible.

Because of Monday's soft upper torso, when she bends her neck forward, a little indentation appears in her collar bone area:


Monday's neck joint also allows her to bend her head to the left:


And to the right:


Here's another GIF:

Tick, tock.
This combination of head and neck joints allows Monday to move her head just about any way I can think of.


Monday's shoulders are rotating hinges.  They work a bit differently from other joints of this type, though, because of the soft upper torso.

The arms can lift straight up until they're about level with the shoulders:


They can also spin around...


And lift straight up into the air when the hinge is rotated:


The thing that's different about the action of these joints is that because there's no hard torso to constrain them, they allow the arms to bend across the body quite a lot:

Hold my beer.
The arms can do this in the back, too:


Not many (maybe none?) of the other dolls I've reviewed can do this:


Because of Monday's soft torso, I was also able to peek at the joint mechanism when the arms were moved to an extreme:


I love this kind of thing because I'm fascinated by the inner workings of highly-articulated dolls.  It's rare to get a peek inside.


It turns out that there's a much easier way to get a look at the innards of this doll, but I hadn't figured it out yet, so bear with me for another minute or two.

Monday has double-jointed elbows.  These have similar movement to the elbows on a Made to Move Barbie, but they look a lot different.


In this next picture, Monday is bending her left arm only at the distal elbow joint--the one farthest away from her body.  This joint can bend to about a 45 degree angle.  With her right arm, she's bending both of her elbow joints:


The larger, distal joint is a ball-shaped hinge with no rotation.  The smaller, proximal joint is a rotating hinge.

The distal joint is harder to move than the proximal joint, and maneuvering both of these joints in tandem takes a bit of practice.  I got into the habit of moving the elbow with both of my hands--one hand for each joint.

Monday's arm movement is very expressive.



She can even scratch the middle of her back!


Monday's wrists are rotating hinges.  These allow her hands to spin around, and also bend to about a 90 degree angle.


I like the expressive shape of Monday's fingers:


The hands are made out of soft vinyl so the fingers can bend to wrap around objects--like Monday's opposite wrist:


Monday's vinyl hands slide off of her arm quite easily:


Here's a close-up of the connection point:


Notice that the little connector has its own rotational joint.  That's basically an eighteenth point of articulation!

The connector slides right into the hole in the palm of the hand:


There are other hand shapes that can be purchased from Smart Doll, and these add a lot to a doll's posing potential and personality.  The hand sets cost about $86, so I didn't get those, either.

Extra hands would be incredibly easy to use, though.  Much easier than the action figure hands I've tried to wrangle in the past.


I guess the bare hand stubs are expressive, too...in their own way.


I found Monday's wrist joints difficult to manipulate.  This is because the hand does not move with the hinge of the joint the way it does with most other dolls: they each move separately.  

To explain that a bit better, let's take a look at Lina's wrist:


The hand itself is part of the hinge joint, so when I rotate the hand, the joint alignment changes with it:


I always know which direction the hinge is facing because it's always in the same alignment with respect to Lina's hand.

In contrast, Monday's hand moves independently from the hinge.  This means that I can rotate her hand from this position:


To this position:


But the hinge doesn't move at all when I do this.  To be clear: the hinge can rotate and the hand can rotate, but they don't move together.

Basically, this means I never know which way Monday's wrist hinges are facing, so I'll try to move them and they won't do what I expect.  It's not an insurmountable problem, clearly, but it's not something I'm used to.

I removed Monday's sports bra so that I could get a better look at her torso joint.  Here's the bra on its own:


Smart Doll underwear comes in different colors, and I don't think you can choose which color you want.  I absolutely love this dark plum color.  It's one of my very favorite colors and I feel lucky to have gotten it.

You can see why Monday's torso joint was concealed by just a simple bra.  It's very inconspicuous:


It's possible to get replacement torsos with even larger, more buoyant breasts, but I didn't feel that this was necessary--especially not for $90.  I do enjoy reading the descriptions for products like this on the Smart Doll website, though.  Here's an excerpt: "This is the largest bust size I would personally use for my girls when out n about - it's got enough volume and cleavage to go well with a variety of apparel...while at the same time not big enough to cause road accidents from passer by drivers."

Even with Monday's relatively modest chest size, my mom asked me, "what's up with the balloon boobs?"  I'll leave it at that.

The torso joint itself is great, with excellent side-to-side flexibility:



Here's a GIF of that movement:


Here's how the joint looks from the side:


The torso joint also allows Monday to bend forward and backward, but this isn't as elegant as the side-to-side motion. There are big gaps that appear where the two halves of the torso meet:


The gap created when Monday leans forward requires some extra attention when the body is returned to an upright position.  The soft vinyl of the upper torso can get pinched in the joint.

The gap when Monday leans backwards is obvious, too:


But it closes without any special maneuvering.

Here's a GIF:


The torso joint can also twist to the side:


The extreme movement of this joint allowed me to peek inside the body and get a look at Monday's inner skeleton:


She has an armature in there!  This peek, combined with the interchangeable torso parts available in the Smart Doll store, got me thinking that Monday must come apart at some level--otherwise it would be impossible to swap out her chest.  So, I started to pull on various body parts and discovered that, indeed, Monday comes apart!

Sorry it took me so long to figure this out.

First of all, her head can come off:


The attachment site is a fairly skinny plastic peg that inserts into a hole in the bottom of the head.  You can see why this joint does not allow Monday to look up and down:


Monday's arms can also come off, and their attachment looks similar to the head--except that the shoulder pegs are attached to hinges:


Before I figured out how to remove the arms, this is what dressing and undressing Monday looked like:

Frustrating for me and uncomfortable for her.
With the arms and head removed, it's really easy to take the sports bra off and put it back on again!


Once the head and arms have been removed, the upper torso slips right off and the skeleton is revealed:

It's orange!  Mirai's favorite color.
This is the same style of armature that's inside of a My Twinn body.  It's very flexible and durable.  You can see that the armature runs all of the way down through Monday's torso:


And then it connects to a piece of plastic that anchors her hip joints:


That's so cool.  I really love being able to see how a doll works.  I discovered as I was writing this review that Danny Choo made a special doll with transparent skin so that the entire internal mechanism can be seen!  It's a fun thing to look at if you get a chance.

Next, I removed Monday's underwear so that I could inspect her hip joints.


Here's a full-length shot of her body without any clothing:


She's a gorgeous doll, but the smooth lines of her body are interrupted a bit in the back by the hole for the stand and the large hinges at her knees:


A closer look at the visible part of the knee joint reveals that there's a plastic hinge underneath the softer vinyl "skin:"


Monday is not especially good at doing the splits.  This is as far as her hips can bend from side to side:


And I had to hold her up with one hand to get her to balance in a front-to-back split position:


She can sit on the ground with her legs out straight, but her body leans back a little:


There's no rotation in her hips or upper legs.

Monday's knees don't have any rotation, either.  They are simple hinges that only bend to 90 degrees:


She can kneel nicely on both knees, but not on one knee.  I had to use the stand to get her to balance in this pseudo-kneeling position:

I mean, she looks gorgeous in that pose, but she's not kneeling.
I have to say, this was a bit of a buzz kill.  I was having the time of my life with Monday's upper body articulation, and just assumed that her hips and knees would be similarly awesome.  But from the waist down, she has pretty basic joints.

Lina can out-pose Monday in almost every sitting position.  For example, Lina can kneel on one knee really well (although this pose tends to collapse because her knee joints aren't stiff enough to support her):


Lina can kneel on two knees better than Monday, too.  She can sit back so that her upper and lower legs are touching.  Monday's knees only bend to a 90 degree angle:


One of the best things that Lina can do is sit upright on the ground with her knees bent.  Monday can't do this kind of pose without leaning her upper body way back.  


Here's another example:


The Smart Doll body is very well-designed overall, so I know there must be a reason that the articulation in the hips and knees is so limited.  I'm guessing that there is a balance/flexibility tradeoff, and Mr. Choo opted for better balance over better flexibility.  As disappointing as the hip and knee joints are, I think a floppy doll in this size would be extremely irritating.  And Monday's balance really is extraordinary; she balances much better than Lina.

Monday's ankles have rotating hinges in them, so there's a lot of flexibility in the feet.  The toes can point and flex:


And they can also rotate inwards and outwards:


The feet are removable, which helps with dressing and un-dressing (and makes things like skinny jeans possible!):


The toes have graceful detail, even on the bottom of the foot:


After examining all of the joints, I played around with Monday for a while to see what kinds of poses come naturally to her.

I love that she can lay on her belly and look up at the camera!  Very few dolls can do this:

That's a very long neck!
She's also good at lounging on her side with her head propped on her arm:


She can strike a convincing a running pose--with the help of the stand:


She can even flamingo on one leg with her stand, but I wouldn't leave her alone like this.  It was not stable at all!


She looks awesome in what I call the superhero pose:


This pose makes me think of the limited edition Supergirl that Smart Doll made a few years ago.  I'm obsessed with the faded version of that outfit.  You can see pics here.

It was great to be able to explore Monday's articulation without any hair getting in the way, but I was also eager to get a look at the beautiful Mermaid Cherry wig!  Here it is out of the packaging:


It has a plain canvas wig cap with no velcro or silicone or anything sticky like that.

The wig has an overall beautiful, natural red color, achieved by mixing what looks like three different shades:


The wig looks wonderful on Monday!


It has loose curls, but they're easy to manage and don't get tangled.


The wig has a tight fit and does not require a wig cap or any kind of adhesive.  It's also really easy to get on, which is amazing.


I didn't have any trouble with the part getting off-center, either.  I'd just pop the wig on and then forget about it as I played with Monday.


I also bought a wig from Etsy, just to see how the fit and quality compare to an authentic Smart Doll wig.  This is an "apple cider" wig that I found at Dallas Doll Co.  My camera makes it look more golden blonde than it actually is:


I love the feel of high-quality straight wigs like this; I like how the hair fibers glide through my fingers.  This is a beautiful wig and it fits Monday very well.


This wig slips from side to side slightly more than the Smart Doll wig.  As I went through my photos, I noticed that the part was often just slightly off center.  The wig came with a silicone wig cap as a gift, but I like the freedom of not having to use something like that. 

It's great that there are so many hair options for these dolls.  I like Denver Doll Co. and also the Doll of a Kind shop for high-quality wigs at great prices.  Wig shopping could get really expensive, though, with so many fun choices at around $25 per wig!


Here's Monday, back in her original wig, showing off her beautiful hair and excellent upper body articulation:


She can touch all parts of her face, hair, and neck with ease.


And she can fold (almost cross) her arms over her chest.


She's a really fun doll to pose!


Although her standing positions are limited.


I liked arranging her in kneeling positions because these compact her long body for the camera.




A few things I noticed while playing around with Monday are that her double-jointed elbows can get stuck in funny positions, like this:



Also, her hands can start to slip off, leaving a gap at her wrist, like this:



Despite those little issues, Monday is an exceptionally fun doll to pose--especially in her upper body.  She was getting cold in my basement with no clothes, though, so I decided to dress her.

My budget couldn't handle the gorgeous Smart Doll brand clothing, as tempting as it is.  The jeans are around $85 and the tops between $40 and $100.  I love the earthy tones and comfy designs, though.  I want to wear half of the clothes myself!

Etsy has some wonderful Smart Doll clothing shops, too, so I searched around there for an economical alternative.  I ended up buying jeans and a tee shirt from a place called Mommy Sewing KR.  I got a pair of socks for free!


The jeans cost $35.80 and have good reviews:


They looked big in the bag, so Monday held them up to make sure they were a good fit:


She then tried them on (over her underwear) and they fit very well!


They have working belt loops, working pockets, and a snap fly in front:


Here's a better look at the metal snap:


These jeans have a lined waistband and lined front pockets.  The stitched details are immaculate.  If I didn't know the scale, I might mistake these for full-sized jeans!


The pockets in back have bits of the seam allowance showing at the top, but otherwise these pants are perfection.


The green tee shirt cost $15.80.  It was available with short or long sleeves:


The shirt fits over Monday's bra, but the shoulder straps are visible at the neck:


I actually like the look of the visible purple straps, but the lines of the bra were also visible through the front of the tee.


So I decided to remove the bra.  It's a smoother look:


I really like the cut of this shirt (it's something I'd wear) and it looks good with Monday's hair.

I paired these clothes with sneakers from Dolls Closet Boutique.  Smart Doll shoes can be really expensive (some of them are Jimmy Choos, after all) but these were only $12:


My next mission was to change Monday's eye color.  I wanted her to have green eyes that would match her shirt.  I knew that eye swaps were possible with Smart Dolls because many of the Etsy shops that sell Smart Doll wigs also sell replacement eyes (16mm size).  I actually have a lot of 16mm eyes on hand, because that's the size that an 18-inch My Twinn or Cuddly Sister doll would use.

To access the eyes, the top of Monday's head had to be removed.  This was quite easy.  The top of the head (the pate) is made out of flexible vinyl, and so it can be squeezed and pulled off.  No heating or other shenanigans required.

Inside the head, the original eyes were held in place with some blue putty--like the stuff I used to stick posters on my wall in when I was in college.  You know, before Command strips were invented:


The blue putty is placed around the eyes in an incredibly neat and symmetrical way.  I have no idea how they managed to make it look that good (although there's probably a how-to video somewhere on the Smart Doll website):


I pulled one of the eyes out of the putty:


I compared the extracted eye to the replacement eyes that I had on hand--just to make sure I'd gotten the size right:

16mm round eye from Doll of a Kind, 16mm half round Eyeco eye, Smart Doll eye.
The three eyes in that picture look very different, but they all have the same iris size, which is the most important thing.

16mm Eyeco eye (left) and Smart Doll eye (right).
Feeling confident, I pulled out the rest of the putty:


Here's a closer look inside Monday's head:


I wasn't really sure the best way to get the new eyes in place, so I squished them into the putty...


...and then squished the putty into Monday's head:

Great job, Emily.
Now you can see why I was impressed by how neat the original putty was.

Here's Monday with her green eyes:

Hm.
I like the color of these eyes, and they definitely match the shirt:

And yet...
The fit is good, too, but something didn't look right about them.

I am the Lizard Queen!
I went back and looked at my pictures of Monday with her original eyes, and realized that the eyes should be set slightly crossed, so that a little bit of white is showing on the outside of each eye.  More like this:


That's much less reptilian.

These eyes have a more distinct pupil than the Smart Doll eyes, so they're going to have a different look no matter how they're placed.




I like how Monday looks as a green-eyed girl!


The putty is flexible, so it's possible to move the eyes around a little while they're still in place.  I shifted Monday's eyes so that she was looking to one side:


I love this look for her!


I tried the blonde wig with the green eyes, too, and this is a nice combination:


The wig brings out little flecks of yellow in the eyes:


I tried the full round blue eyes on Monday, too.  This time I used a ring of putty to secure each eye, instead of just a big blob:

A better technique.
These look good, but they're more purple than blue:

They match the bra, at least.
And here are the blue eyes with the blonde wig:



I felt pretty sad that I only had one extra wig and two extra pairs of eyes to try on Monday.  I wish I'd bought a curly wig or some more fantasy-themed eyes, just for fun.  Changing eyes and wigs is so easy with these dolls, I could lose an entire day experimenting with different combinations!

The versatility of appearance makes Monday a great doll for kids, too.  Her look could be adjusted to adapt to a child's changing personality over the years.  Or, if an old wig got tangled or old eyes faded, it'd take five minutes and about $35 to remedy the situation.

My favorite combination for Monday is the red hair and green eyes.  I really like her original eyes, too, but they didn't go with the outfit quite as well as the green eyes.

For Monday's final photo shoot, I had a neat opportunity to visit a house that has some incredible industrial elements in its architecture.  This modern setting seemed perfect for such a modern doll!


I had hoped to take some outdoor photos with Monday, too, but don't let the dazzling blue sky fool you; it was twelve degrees outside on this particular day!  We settled for enjoying the outdoors through the many floor-to-ceiling windows in this house:


I like how Monday's reflection is peeking at us in this picture:



Monday also enjoyed hiding in the voluminous white window curtains!


The stairways in this house have railings with a metal grid pattern that Monday gravitated towards.


It's a like a jungle gym for (mini) adults!


At the top of one staircase, there was a little room full of windows and blue sky!



We also found a stoop in this room that showed off Monday's silhouette really well:


The first floor of the house has big concrete pillar supports, and these were fun for games of hide-and-seek:


Or just for relaxing and taking in the scenery:


 This is one of my favorite pictures of Monday:


Another really cool thing about this house is that it has a green tiled bathroom.  Perfect for this green-eyed redhead!




The daylight was starting to fade at this point,


But I was still able to snap some more pictures near the windowed wall.


By some happy coincidence, many of the rugs in this house coordinated amazingly well with Monday's coloring.  I especially love this beautiful Moroccan rug that was hanging on the wall:


Monday preferred this floor rug because she could lounge gracefully on it!




Bottom line?  I've never owned a doll quite like Monday.  Her scale and movement are most similar to some resin ball-jointed dolls that I had about ten years ago; things like a Limhwa half-elf, a SOOM fantasy character, and a Dollstown girl.  I loved the beauty and customization potential of those dolls, but I could never get fully on board; their elastic stringing loosened over time and I didn't know how to fix it, their resin yellowed pretty quickly and I couldn't figure out how to stop the process, removing their heads to change eyes always seemed precarious, and I simply worried about them too much.  They were fragile and hard to manage.  From my perspective, Monday has the beauty and customization qualities of a resin BJD with none of the hassles.  She's not elastic strung, so her joints will remain sturdy for a long time.  Furthermore, if something ever goes wrong with her joints, I'll know how to take her apart and figure out where the problem is.  Her vinyl might stain if I'm not careful, but the overall color isn't likely to change dramatically over time. Her pate is very easy to remove and so customization is fun, not stressful. And I don't worry about her at all.  She feels durable in my hands, she balances really well, she's easy to clean, and I'm not afraid to throw her into a tote bag and take her outside or on a trip.

Just because I've never owned another doll like Monday doesn't mean that other dolls like her don't exist.  One of my Patrons, who is really knowledgable in this area, told me about Volks' Dollfie Dream dolls that are also SD scale and made out of vinyl.  I was planning to put Monday for sale in the shop within 24 hours, but I'm willing to hold off on that if there's some interest in a Smart Doll vs Dollfie Dream (vs Obitsu?) comparison review.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Patreon.  And thank you so much to my Patrons for making this kind of pricey review possible.

For now, though, let me summarize the ups and downs of my experience with Monday.  I don't have many bad things to say about her.  I was initially disappointed by the simplicity of her hip and knee articulation--especially in comparison to the amazing joints in her upper body.  I'm wondering if these areas were simplified in order to enhance Monday's balance.  If that's the case, then it's probably a tradeoff I would have chosen.  A doll this size with collapsing hips and knees would have been infuriating.  I also had difficulty posing Monday's wrists.  The hinge does not move with the hand the way it does on many other dolls, and so I was often making incorrect assumptions about the location of the hinge.  In addition, the elbow joints are a bit awkward.  They have incredible mobility, but maneuvering the two joints in concert takes some practice.  And the elbow joints can get caught in some unnatural, in-between positions.  My one last tiny critique of Monday is that there's a bit too much blushing on her nose for my taste.  But that's really nitpicky.

What I love about Monday is a lot.  She has a gorgeous, engaging, hand-painted face with features that are a charming mix of anime and realism.  Her original eyes are unique and bright, and she can accommodate many other styles of 16mm eye.  The easily-removable pate and included blue putty make eye-swapping a breeze.  Monday's silky, manageable wig is a vibrant mix of natural red colors that compliment her freckled complexion.  The wig is fitted perfectly, so it's simple to put on and take off, but it also stays put and doesn't slip around or fall off easily.  There's a huge variety of appropriate wigs and eyes available on today's market, so customization of these dolls is fun and accessible.  Monday's body has at least seventeen points of articulation--more if you count the fact that her neck and torso have a segmented armature with multiple points of movement.  Her upper body was able to pose in every way that I could imagine, and she could even strike several poses that are impossible for the majority of dolls.  For the most part, none of Monday's joints mar the beautiful lines and shape of her body; she looks just as good in her underwear as she does in jeans and a tee shirt.  It doesn't hurt that the underwear is well-made and flattering.  Monday stands on her own like a champ, and her body is designed to be disassembled for easy dressing and customization.  This doll looks and feels like she was created by a perfectionist.  Everything is so incredibly well-conceived--right down to the simple, effective stand and the low-waste packaging.  She's appropriate for collectors of almost any age.  I probably wouldn't give Monday to a child under the age of five, but that rule goes for most things in this price range.  I could have listed the high Smart Doll prices as one of the things I don't like about the brand, but from what I've seen, the prices are fair.  Monday is worth every penny.

Right after I took Monday out of her bubble wrap, when she was standing--wigless and half naked--on my photo table for the first time, I remember turning off the camera, rocking back on my heels, and saying out loud to myself, "Whoa.  She's spectacular."  Three weeks, four eye swaps, five wig changes, four outfit changes, countless poses, one road trip, and 1078 photographs later, I feel exactly the same way.

30 comments:

  1. Monday is fantastic! The colors and lines of the architectural house really suit her.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd be interested in a comparison with ye luoli, aka night lolita, aka 叶罗丽 dolls. They're one of my favorite lines, I have three of them and one on the way. They cost about 50 to 150 dollars and are almost like a cheap alternative to vinal bjds. They come in 1/6 scale, 1/4 scale, and 1/3 scale. Their bodies are good, faces are cute, clothes are pretty but flimsy, and wigs are questionable. They're based on the popular Chinese kids show ye loli elf dream and are super popular in China with both children and adult collectors alike

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Man, I shouldn't leave comments while I'm sleepy. I meant vinyl not vinal and they're 50 to 150 nzd not usd

      Delete
  3. I really like the articulation, but she seems so pricey to me. Well, but in our country the most of dolls seems pricey. And it would be pretty hard for me to take this doll for photos.However I am really happy that I could see her on your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderful review as always, and Monday is beautiful! I've been wanting a Smart Doll for a few years now, but couldn't justify the $450+ price. My mind always goes to "For that price, I could buy 4 American Girl dolls!" But your review is really tempting me again!

    I love Mirai and the now retired boy, Gemini. I've heard that Danny won't let you buy a boy without buying a girl first, so that's annoying. I can't see myself ever buying more than one, but the boys are really cute. Too bad you can't buy just a boy!

    I know I'd be interested in seeing a comparison with Super Dollfie!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great review, Emily! I've been so curious about Smart Doll as someone who owns BJDs so thank you! Monday is super gorgeous and your photos of her are next level amazing. Your enjoyment of her shines through. I want you to keep her for yourself! ;) I would be super interested in a comparison review of Monday and a Dollfie Dream as well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ohhh I was smiling so hard while reading this cause I knew exactly how it feels to get a Smartie for the first time and you and me, we had so many similar thoughts about it ❤️ I also own some bjds, but I was too scared that they could break and so they are sitting in a dark room - and turning yellow :( It‘s such a shame for such expensive dolls.

    But them I found out about the Smarties. My first one was Prowess in Cocoa and I loove her, everything about her (and she does have the medium bust and it really looks good on her), and she smells so good and the body feels so great. And the have such a charme❤️ I‘m absolutely in love with that brand, even I‘m leaning more towards the semi real now. I have Strenght in Tea and Cocoa and she is sooo breathtaking….but I think my favorite is Entropy, she‘s so so adorable ❤️ You see, I can‘t stop, hehe.

    I also like the stories on the smart doll site, and it‘s so nice how Danny protects his employes. I know that many people have proplems with the way he writes and many call him rude, but I guess we have the same dark and sarcastic streak and we both worked long enough in customer service so I think his way to write and handle things is really refreshing. I also didn‘t know he‘s the son of Jimmy Choo, ha!

    So yes, thank you so much for sharing this experience with us. It felt so good and made me so happy. And I love your sweet girl so much. Monday is a great sculpt ❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PS: I also love the clothes from Mummy Sewing! So so sweet!
      And you are so right about the fast shipping if the dolls. It‘s so lovely to get the
      dolls so so fast ❤️ I had all mine within 3 days.

      Delete
  7. Once you mentioned you had ordered a SmartDoll, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this review! It is so cool, and rare, that you had real contact with Mr.Choo; that is a rarity these days.
    I LOVE her with the green eyes and red hair; they really suit the coloring on her face. The articulation on her upper body is amazing, but the limitations on her lower Body were like a big Whaw -whaaan :(. Not only her purchasing cost, but the obvious work that was put into her whole design leaves me puzzled with the limited ROM in her hips. Even with the trade-off with standing stability.
    I find her stand intriguing; it looks like if the standing stick got lost, something else could be used in a pinch...like a chopstick! In the end, wherever this lovely lady ends up, her person will have a grand time posing her!

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a spectacular doll! I really love her coloring, body shape, and most especially her sweet face! I feel like Japan really the only ones who can get 'anime' faces right. These strike me as a type of doll you would only own one or two of, and then have a wide collection of accessories and clothes to play with. The company looks to have great ethics too which makes the prices even more justifiable!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm so excited to see a Smart Doll review! I've wanted one since their release so having you review Monday is such a treat. I don't know if I'll ever get one myself, but this was super helpful. I've seen a lot of people who are already big into BJDs and Dollfie Dreams review Smart Dolls, but its never as informative as your posts.

    Personally, I'd love to see a Smart Doll vs Dollfie Dream vs Obitsu comparison. I've always wondered exactly how they all compare!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I’m a bjd collector of about 10 years now and it’s lovely to see you review a Smart Doll! On the forums I use we include them as bjds because they resemble the Volks dollfie dream dolls. I think Smart Dolls are certainly lighter, durable and flexible than resin bjds, and they might make a good doll for a gentle child. I say this just because the plastic armitage pieces might snap under force and be expensive to replace, the face ups can easily chip/scratch, and vinyl dolls are difficult to clean as the stains tend to “soak” in - especially when they’re left in dark clothing for too long. Can’t wait to read your comparison thoughts on Super Dollfies and Obitsus!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This was so interesting to read. I've heard about Smart dolls, but never cared to look into the line because nothing about them is my cup of tea (size, price...), and I actively dislike many features of their design. But a review from you is always good, no matter the doll. I learned some surprising things. The body shape and upper articulation is incredible. The stand design baffled me. The hole in the body is unsightly and makes me think of tail-less MH. How does one display it from the back? What if you want to apply a tramp stamp tattoo? The other aspect I don't like, and it's just personal preference, is the leaning pole. I'm a "if it's not a right angle, it's a wrong angle" kind of person. I think Obitsu has bodies and stands with magnets in strategic places. Maybe they could have done something like that? Or a good old telescoping saddle?

    Something I thought you'd explain more is the name. The "Smart" part of the name confused me so much. Being familiar with smart watches, TVs, scales etc, I definitely expected smart dolls to have some app features. If I had liked the face enough to buy a doll without any research, I would have been very disappointed. I asked in a doll group what's up with the name and someone answered it's not intentionally misleading. Apparently, some smart features were indeed planned, but later scrapped as they would have increased the price too much.

    Anyway, I personally am not particularly interested in a Smart doll vs bjd post just because I don't intend to collect either of them. I made some comparisons for myself. Her neck is double jointed like a Billie Eilish doll and she shares the elbow problem with my 25$ short MengF (1:6). My main conclusion is that, like Integrity dolls, her price only partly reflects higher quality materials and design compared to cheaper equivalents. A bigger chunk of it is the famous designer connection. I was sad, but not surprised, that the huge price tag did not get you at least a basic outfit. I really liked the Etsy items though and Mommy Sewing sounds so wholesome! On second thought, I would like to see just how this overhyped doll compares to a more generic vinyl BJD. I think the generic one will have better value.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Id love to see a comparison with a cheaper doll too, I recommended ye luoli dolls higher up. I must say though the cheaper ones have a lot of cut corners and some of the generic ones are even partial recasts. I think the price of smart dolls is fairly reasonable because they look like they're really good quality and are made in Japan

      Delete
  12. Wow,she’s a wonderful doll. I enjoyed this review so much. Your photos are amazing...she looks like a real model!

    ReplyDelete
  13. She is awesome! A Smartdoll is on my "One Day" wish list. I'm glad you like her.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Finally! I have 16 Smart Dolls, so am officially a fan. A few points: The wrist joint DOES move, but it can be very tight, especially when you first get the doll. You have to grasp the wrist ball with one hand and the lower arm skin with the other and gently turn it. Also, unless she is bending her arms to an extreme degree, push that elbow joint back up into the skin. It's a common mistake to bend the elbows by letting that joint slip out but it looks awkward and puts stress on the upper arm. The elbow ball joint can also be very tight (made that way on purpose it seems, to allow the doll to hold heavier objects). To bend the elbow joint, grasp the upper arm with one hand and the lower with another, so you can feel the skeleton through the skin, and gently bend the elbow joint. It will loosen some with movement and be easier to manipulate. As far as the lower body, Danny Choo made a decision to sacrifice movement for aesthetics. If you compare the lower body of Smart Doll to Dollfie Dream or Obitsu, you will see that it is in fact more natural-looking and attractive. There are work-arounds for getting natural poses, and also you can get optional hip and knee joints from a company called Dolfun that allow greater degree of posing. However- you do sacrifice the natural look. I'm glad you finally got a hold of a Smart Doll and I hope you will consider hanging onto her long enough to really learn how to pose her. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a great review of a gorgeous doll. Thanks, Emily.

    I love everything about her except that I'd prefer her in playscale but she's obviously well made. The trade off of leg articulation for stability is fair considering that posing them is part of the fun of having them from what I can see.

    Her stand idea is pretty clever and it must be easy to Photoshop out.

    I'm sure a comparison with Dollfie Dream would be fun for collectors of that type and size of doll.

    ReplyDelete
  16. She's a beautiful doll, but at that price point I will enjoy her through your review. lol

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm glad you did this review, I've always been curious about Smart doll.
    Her blushing is very bright, looks like a lupus rash.
    I would love to see a comparison with a dollfie dream.

    ReplyDelete
  18. A very thorough review that didn’t come without surprises. I, too, have been aware of Smart Dolls for a long time – they look cute and versatile, and, just as you mentioned, seem to be a great alternative for BJDs in some aspects. Back in the 2000s, for long years I loved BJDs and longed to own one, but I was a student and their prices simply weren’t on the same level as my budget for – anything, not just dolls. By hindsight I feel lucky I didn’t just go into mad saving mode to get one, because now I know I would likely have been disappointed. Not right away, but over time, definitely. They are too high-maintenance, fragile, and simply not designed for how I would have preferred to handle them: displayed sitting somewhere open in our dusty, bright apartment. Now I know their resin would have collected dust in a blink of an eye, and they would have yellowed – though they would have done this even if I stored them away, in a drawer. With smart dolls I could have this – but their appeal, at least to me, is completely different compared to what I liked in BJDs. I find Smart Dolls cute, whereas in BJDs it was the ethereal beauty that got me. Cute is good though, so this alone wouldn’t prevent me from getting a Spart Doll – but there is a main problem I have with them: the scale. I'm like Maricha. If they were half this size I’d probably get one, buti n their current form they are way, way too big for me. I kow there were once plans of smaller Smart Dolls (1/6 and 1/9 in scale), but as far as I remember, only a few pictures of the prototypes ever surfaced, and nothing else was said about them since… 2016. Probably they would have been too costly to produce.

    I have been drooling over awesome pictures of these dolls, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the joints and posing discussed in this detail – and your review has shed light on a number of disappointing points in this aspect. It is clearly visible that Danny Choo chose aesthetics over poseability in some places, and while I can’t deny the Smart Doll body turned out beautiful, unfortunately, for me the priorities are somewhat different: I’d almost always prefer less realistically-looking joints if they pose better (and the joints are often, and can always be, hid under clothing). The comparison shots with Lina really confirm this to me: I adore how Lina is able to sit on her lower legs, and that she would be able to sit with her legs bent at the knees to either side, too - Monday couldn’t do either of these… I especially see the latter as a missed opportunity, as anime girls are often depicted in that pose, and Smart Dolls did/do have that connection. On the other hand, there are the definitely less aesthetically appealing elbow joints, that pose nicely – they form a weird contrast with the knee joints, almost as if the aesthetics aspect was suddenly abandoned halfway through designing the body. This makes me think what you too have worded: aesthetics probably weren’t the main factor when designing the body, or at least the legs, stability might have taken priority there. Still, I think there could have been a bit more: for instance, a rotating thigh joint (like the one Lina has) woudn’t have taken away from the stability, but could have added to the posing (it would have, for instance, made the aforementioned „lower legs out” anime girl sitting pose available).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like the close-up shot of Monday’s face where one of her eyes is hidden by her hair – for some reason it looks like she's winking, which makes the picture even more realistic. No matter how poseable they are, the static faces often take away a lot from doll pictures, and the end result will just not be realistic. Anything that adds variable realism to the face is a good point for me, and while Monday cannot actually wink (apart from Pullips I don't think there are any other dolls that can – but this feature – plus an Obitsu body – still really add up and make Pullips become eyecandy in photos), it’s great to see how easy it is to give her side-glancing eyes if that’s what would suit a pose and photo better.

      I think you should give silicone wig caps a try – especially now that you have one at hand :) Before I discovered them, I struggled a *lot* with 2 of my rewigged dolls – I didn’t want to settle on a single hairstyle for them, so I didn’t glue their wigs on, but the hairline slipping, or the wig just completely sliding off (sometimes even when I didn't handle the doll!) was a real pain and often prevented me from wanting to interact with the dolls. Wig caps solved this issue completely, and buying them is one of my top „I wish I’ve done this sooner”-moments I can think of – the other one being switching to an electronic toothbrush – but a wig cap is a much less expensive investment :D

      Delete
    2. Ohhh, the tiny Smart Dolls are coming, Danny posted about them around 6 months ago :) Pocket sized Smart Dolls ❤️

      Delete
    3. Oh, that's both awesome and dreadful to hear :D Thanks for the info Sév!

      Delete
  19. Thank you for the thorough review! It will be wonderful if you could consider a comparison.

    Thank you also for promoting Danny Choo's Smart Dolls, it seems like there is not much to fault and the price is well worth the quality and in support of its superb corporate welfare and culture (treating customers as friends) :) I will be tempted to get one myself after reading your rave review!

    ReplyDelete
  20. SPECTACULAR review! I had admired these dolls, but always felt they weren't for me. After reading your review and looking at your photographs, I think I've changed my mind about that.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi There from sunny South Africa! I know I am late with saying great to have you back - I can't tell you how many things I bought because of your reviews. I know you customize, but I am not sure how you feel about sewing... There are free patterns on the Smart doll website, that are incredibly detailed (they are patterns of Smart doll clothes that Danny retired. They are under "Secret Stuff" "Free Stuff". If you are like me, you may need a tutorial on how to put them together, so I recommend SamSally UnderOrange. Also check out the Doll Fairy on You Tube - she shows how you can take clear glass 20mm Cabochons and make some new eyes for your girl. I was lucky enough to get a Smart Doll, but I also couldn't afford too many things. I am so happy for you & glad to see you are back.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Really really enjoyed this review! Monday is so beautiful, and your photography was stellar here!

    I thought I would prefer the more stylized face option, but your review has definitely given me an appreciation for the semi-realistic face style too! Her painted eyelashes have such pretty shapes...

    The look at the articulation was also super interesting! Like everyone else, I was also surprised at how inflexible the lower body was, especially compared to the impressive range of motion in the upper body.(The fact that Monday can lay on her front and look up at the camera is so cool! And her soft upper body allowing her upper arms to cross over more is something I've never seen on another doll! :O)

    Thank you so much for writing this and bringing us along on this adventure! I would personally love to see the comparison review you mentioned you might do if there was interest. Consider me interested!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I keep looking at the Smartdolls, but they're definitely a larger doll (and higher price point) than I usually go in for. I figure I'm waiting for the one I HAVE to have and just haven't met her yet. Monday is absolutely adorable!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'd love to see that comparison that you mentioned!

    ReplyDelete